The military campaign against ISIS has escalated with the deployment of a detachment of Marines outside their de-facto capital of Raqqa, while continued leaks of military strategy are a cause for concern.
The Marines are part of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which left San Diego on amphibious assault ships in October and were stationed in the Middle East prior to their deployment to Syria.
The Marine force is expected to establish an outpost outside Raqqa, the de-facto of ISIS, to provide artillery support using M-777 howitzers for local forces assaulting the city.
The United States is authorized to have 500 troops operating in Syria; prior to the deployment of the Marine detachment, roughly 300 special forces operators were stationed in the country.
In addition to the Marine detachment deployed to Syria, the Defense Department is reportedly considering the deployment of 1000 troops to Kuwait to serve as a “reserve force” in the fight against ISIS.
“This is about providing options,” a defense official told Reuters.
The Trump administration’s pledge to focus its efforts on defeating ISIS was on clear display last weekend after members of the 75th Ranger Regiment were moved to the Syrian city of Manbij to deter an attack by Turkish troops on Kurdish forces stationed there.
The continued leaking of military deployments and strategy to the media by anonymous officials in the government is a cause for concern, as it risks putting the lives of the troops involved in danger.
While the city of Raqqa is nearly completely surrounded by local forces, ISIS still maintains a sizable force in and around the city itself. As such, the decision by the Washington Post to disclose the Marine deployment and extrapolate their position based on the range of their artillery risks exposing them to deliberate targeting.
“For the base in Syria to be useful, it must be within about 20 miles of the operations that U.S.-backed forces are carrying out,” the Post reported. “That is the estimated maximum range on many rounds fired from the M-777 howitzer.”
A similar artillery base near the Iraqi city of Mosul, originally named Fire Base Bell, became public knowledge one day after it was attacked by ISIS on March 19, 2016, killing Staff Sergeant Louis F. Cardin and wounding at least four other Marines. The base had been established barely one week prior to the attack.
“The base, whose existence had not previously been public, has come under fire from ever closer range over recent days, an indication that Isis knew about the outpost before the Pentagon announced its creation,” the Guardian reported at the time.